22 October 1999

Celebration of Smithfields former home

MORE than 60 years fell away in a ceremony to commemorate the 77 years during which the Royal Smithfield Show was held at the former Royal Agricultural Hall in Islington, London.

Royal Smithfield Club president Lord Howland, whose ancestor, the 5th Duke of Bedford founded the club in 1798, was joined at the unveiling of a commemorative plaque by Ben Coutts and Lawrence Bembridge, both of whom took part in the last Smithfield Show held at Islington in 1938.

Capt Coutts was then working as a cattleman, breeding and showing Sussex animals for Lord Woolvertons Graffham Estate. Mr Bembridge, now 91, first exhibited Lincoln Red cattle at the show in 1934.

The "Aggie" was requisitioned by the government on the outbreak of the World War Two and subsequently fell derelict. In a curious historical twist, it was reincarnated as the Business Design Centre by the Morris familys City Industrial. This company has recently bought Earls Court, venue for present-day Royal Smithfield Shows, with backing from the equity house Candover.

The deal includes Olympia, former site of Poultry and Dairy shows. The previous operator was P&O. Chairman of the BDC Jack Morris pledged to maintain the building for future generations and said he was delighted to renew involvement with the Royal Smithfield Show.

The RSC reported at the ceremony that it had already received 177 entries for its Winter Fair, an innovation for the club, which is to be held at Lichfield Auction Centre, Staffs on Dec 2. In a departure from tradition, this will be judged on strictly commercial lines, all animals going for slaughter and subsequently judged as carcasses as part of the competition.

The fairs object is to make RSC activities more attractive to commercial producers, said club chairman Donald Biggar.

Another feature will be a Farmers Forum session, Quality for Profit, sponsored by Schering-Plough Animal Health and organised by farmers weekly. Speakers will include Robert Forster, chief executive of the National Beef Association, and National Sheep Association chairman David Raine.

The second stage of the fair will be a meat exhibition and luncheon, for exhibitors only, on Dec 5. &#42